There’s one Oregon woman on YouTube who has a condition called hyperlactation and produces 1.75 gallons of milk daily. Over the past few years, she has donated more than 700 gallons to moms and babies in need.
Being breastfed clearly offers benefits: It’s linked to a lower risk of teen metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and diabetes; it’s protective against weight gain in kids who seem to easily pack on pounds; it helps with immunity; and aids digestive health.
But research also shows not all breast milk is created equal. One study found that breast milk from obese women contains excess fat (altering an infant’s microbiome), and another found that when moms drink sugary beverages, they produce more sugary breast milk (a setup for a child’s future health problems).
The lesson? If you’re going to breastfeed or are breastfeeding, avoid sugary drinks and try to maintain a healthy weight. If you can, breastfeed for six months or more. Remember, moms should never be demonized for needing to provide an infant with an all-formula diet. (However, a recent study found soy-based formulas cause changes in reproductive cells in infants — and long-term effects should be studied.)
If, on the other hand, you consider using donated breast milk, call your state health department to find out about local banks that certify the safety of their milk. The Food and Drug Administration warns that unmonitored sources pose “risks for the baby … (including) exposure to infectious diseases, including HIV, to chemical contaminants (and) … some illegal … and … prescription drugs.”
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.